The problem with having uninvited guests in a secure location is that its difficult to make sure they’re informed of the safety requirements they are expected to meet.
In the case of Tam’s hidden workshop, those safety requirements included obvious things like not powering down the servers without making sure all users were out of the system first, not touching any of the high voltage lines, and never breaking an active magic circle’s integrity. Then there were the ones that were likely to take visitors by surprise. Things like the complete prohibition against firearms and the fact that only approved and magically signed electronic devices were allowed to retain their shape and functionality rather than turning into molten goo.
The strike team PrimaLux sent in certainly had not received those memos and so spent the first several seconds of the battle against Tam at what could kindly be described as a “catastrophic tactical deficit”.
Prior to their arrival, Aaliyah had warned Tam that the strike team was inbound. It had been a last ditch attempt to get Tam to switch sides and swear loyalty to PrimaLux and Tam was grateful for that. She hadn’t needed the warning that trouble was at hand, but it was charming that Aaliyah had made every effort to bring Tam into the PrimaLux fold that she could.
When they arrived, the PrimaLux strike force did not breakdown the door to her base. They didn’t need to. They simple opened a portal through her defenses and stepped out into the middle of Tam’s base ready execute their orders and return home.
“Are you looking for me?” Tam asked, feigning coy innocence.
The assassin’s were standing in a large central area surrounded by wire shelves stocked full with papers, food supplies, or both. Around the edge of the room, behind the many racks of shelves a long hidden ring of force was blazing with a sputtering light.
The strike team’s leader was the first to see her and the first to act. He swung his rifle aiming as he moved it into the position. When he pulled the trigger however, things didn’t go quite as he planned.
Rather than the bullets firing, each one stored in the rifle released a fire elemental, just a tiny one, but together they were enough to melt the gun into bright yellow slag before the assassin was able to pull his finger off the trigger.
From her hiding place, Tam smiled with cruel glee.
The assassins were PrimaLux’s highest level security guards. They were trained in a majority of the deadly weapons known to human beings, especially knives and barehanded fighting styles. Even without functional firearms every member of the six man team was a deadly threat.
“Make it five now,” Tam whispered to James Baughsley. “One of them discovered that holding onto molten steel isn’t spectacularly good for human skin tissue.”
“That still leaves a sizeable force against you,” James said. “Are you sure you don’t want my help?”
“You are helping James,” Tam said. “You’re the key to this working, so just keep doing what you’re doing.”
“I would feel better if I could even those odds a bit,” James said, concern putting wrinkles in his voice Tam had never heard before.
“I know,” Tam said. “But this was the plan, and I knew the odds going in, so trust me, I got this.”
“As you say,” James said over the comms, resignation and pride lifting up his words.
Tam knew he wasn’t wrong to be worried for her. PrimaLux hadn’t sent rookies to take her out. The moment they understood the danger in their firearms they dropped their weapons and drew knives and stun batons.
The stun batons were the next item dropped when they discovered that none of them would power up. That evened the odds slightly but five highly experienced knife wielders was still a lot to handle.
With their comms disabled the assassins carried their fallen comrade back to the portal PrimaLux had opened to send them through. For a fleeting instant, Tam was afraid they might abandon the mission all together. It would have been the smart play when confronted with a mystical threat they weren’t prepared for.
The assassins retreating wouldn’t have spelled disaster for Anna’s plan, but it certainly would have made Tam work more painful and difficult, since it would have meant fighting them later and without any home field advantage.
It was with a certain perverse glee then that she welcomed the sight of five armed men turning away from the portal and resuming their hunt for her with anger and death in their eyes.
In lockdown mode, her workshop was lit only by flickering strobe lights. With proper night vision goggles, that wouldn’t have been an issue for the assassins but their top of the line optics were fitted with the best cutting edge technology that PrimaLux could steal. The assassins weren’t dependent on their tech – they’d fought too many opponents who could nullify its advantages to be surprised when Tam rendered it inert – but without it they were weaker than they would have been.
Crouching in the dark, Tam knew they would still be able to find her but every little advantage she could reclaim was one more point towards victory.
The assassins spread out in a team of three and another of two. The choice showed they knew who they were dealing with. PrimaLux had given them a full rundown on Tam’s capabilities.
She was an accomplished spell caster, but aside from static effects which would affect her as well, the current alignment of mystical forces at her location wouldn’t allow her to pull off any damaging or fatal effects with pure spellcraft. Magic was a concern but they’d dealt with it before and knew they could again.
The good news from their perspective was that Tam wasn’t the team’s hand-to-hand specialist. She couldn’t out fight them one on one and would barely be threat at all if they outnumbered her. Pursuing her in small groups was the correct course of action therefor, and they didn’t waste any time moving through her workshop, covering each other’s backs and checking each isolated corner where she could be hiding.
The first one to spot her was the larger of the assassins in the group of two. He reacted with the honed reflexes of a professional, leaping in to drive his knife into her back before she had the chance to turn or react at all.
His knife hand had punched through the trick mirror and its glass was bouncing off his armored gloves before he recognized his mistake but by then it was too late.
Tam’s connected with a swing of her metal bat to the bottom of his jaw, rising right up below the protection offered by his helmet. Bones snapped, the assassin’s larynx was partially crushed and his brain bounced off the inside of his skull hard enough to remove consciousness in an instant. It wasn’t a killing shot but it didn’t have to be. He was going to be down long enough for other means to be employed to keep him constrained.
His partner was a different matter however. They worked as a team and while the larger of the two had moved first, his only slightly smaller partner moved right behind him.
Tam blocked his knife thrust with her bat, and fell back, tumbling through a curtain and bringing it down on top of her as she sought to escape the assassin’s blade.
The assassin didn’t hesitate though. Before Tam could rise or twist away, he dropped onto the curtain covered lump and stabbed it a dozen times in less than two seconds.
Holding the knife in the last wound to keep her pinned, he pulled back the curtain to confirm the kill, only to discover that all he had knifed was a bag filled with sand.
Tam didn’t waste time with banter, or clever one liners.
Head. Bat. Down.
This assassin got a special extra present though.
The eight legged Somulox wasn’t actually a spider, and reports that it was as big as a cat were mistaken. In reality its body was only half as long as Tam’s forearm. Its thick fuzzy legs gave it the impression of being much larger though and the fact that its fangs glowed with a seething purple light was a hint that it didn’t originate on Earth. It’s poison wasn’t fatal, but it did induce a sleep filled with the sort of nightmares that Tam felt genuinely guilty about using on someone who’d tried to stab her to death mere seconds earlier.
The other three assassins found their teammates down and out less than twenty seconds later, but by then Tam was hidden again.
She considered staging a distraction to keep them focused within the lab – the last thing she needed was for them to flee back through the portal and make her job harder but then she felt Val release the strength and speed enhancing spells that she’d carried into battle with Misha.
“Thank you!” Tam said, knowing that Val couldn’t hear her but the assassins could.
They turned to face her as she stepped out from between two rows of server cabinets they’d checked less than a minute earlier.
They had her outmassed by a factor of six to one. They were armed. She tossed her bat aside. They had experience and, though it didn’t matter, the tactical high ground.
Tam’s eyes took on a feral gleam. They had all those things but she had something much better.
She had Val’s strength, her speed, and for a very limited time, all of her skill.
“Why is it taking some long?” Aaliyah asked.
“We lost contact with the strike team when they breached the portal,” one her techs said.
“I am aware,” Aaliyah said without looking away from her screen. “We expected that though and the team was prepared for everything she could throw at them.”
“Not quite everything,” Tam said.
Aaliyah froze. No one was supposed to be able to penetrate their security. There was literally no entrance or exit from her command posts except via PrimaLux’s magic.
“You’re minions are snoozing,” Tam said. “Don’t worry though, I didn’t use the Somulox on them, but they won’t be waking up for a few hours, or as I like to think of it, well after they’re out of a job.”
“How did you survive?” Aaliyah asked, astounded that she even had to put those words together in that order.
“Please,” Tam said. “You know a magician never reveals how she does her tricks.”
“You beat the strike team?” Aaliyah asked. “No, clearly you did. But how did you get here? If you punched through our magic circles I have to know because there are some things we have locked up that cannot be let out.”
“We’ll be reviewing those,” Tam said.
“I’m serious,” Aaliyah said. “This is end of the world type stuff. I have to nuke this base if there’s even a chance of an escape, and I’m not being metaphorical about that. There’s twelve 100 megaton bombs buried just under the lowest level here. They might be able to neutralize the things we’ve got down there. If we’re lucky.”
“Wow, ok,” Tam said. “Well we’ll be disarming those too, but for now don’t worry. I didn’t break your circles of protection.”
“But you’re here?” Aaliyah said.
“Yes, well, you opened a portal into my workshop,” Tam said.
“That doesn’t explain you being here,” Aaliyah said. “If you tried to step through that portal it would close in an instant and transport only half of you, and that half would wind up somewhere in the depths of space.”
“Check your monitors,” Tam said.
Aaliyah looked down and a fresh wave of confusion swept over her face.
“It’s still open?” she asked.
“Yeah,” Tam said. “I don’t work alone remember.”
“But your teammates are tied up with Misha and Zoe,” Aaliyah said.
“The ones that work in the field yes, but we’ve got more support than that,” Tam said. “James is holding the portal open until I’m done here.”
“And what is it you’re planning to do?” Aaliyah asked, pulling back into her chair as she spoke.
“Have a little conversation with you for a few minutes,” Tam said.
“And then what?” Aaliyah asked.
“Then I’m going to make you an offer,” Tam said. “It’ll be like the one you made to me, only it’s not going to be a choice between pledging loyalty or death by hit squad.”
“What will I be choosing then?”
“Let’s just wait and see, shall we?”